On June 9, 2009, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment released the "Proposed Content for the Renewable Energy Approval Regulation under the Environmental Protection Act" (the Proposal). The intent of the Proposal is to standardize requirements applicable to developers of renewable energy projects across the province. One such proposed requirement would oblige developers to locate renewable energy projects at a minimum setback distance from "receptors", such as dwellings, to ensure that noise levels do not exceed a certain threshold at any receptor.

Although setbacks requirements would apply to wind, solar, hydro, biogas, and biomass projects, the standardization of setback distances is specifically intended to target wind projects. At present wind developers are subject to multiple setback distance requirements as dictated by municipal governments. The Proposal would require that wind projects are set back a minimum of 550 metres from any receptor. A higher standard would be imposed depending on factors such as: (1) the number of turbines in the proposed development; (2) any existing or approved turbines in the area; and (3) the sound level rating of the turbines selected for the development. The Proposal also provides for a minimum setback from roads, railways, and side and rear lot lines that is equal to the turbine hub height plus the length of the blade.

In addition to recommending minimum setback distances, the Proposal would require noise studies to be conducted for any project involving wind turbines with a sound power level greater than 107 decibels, regardless of number, and for any project involving more than 26 turbines within 1.5 kilometres of any receptor. These studies would form part of the new provincial approval process for renewable energy projects.

The Proposal is open for public review and comment on the Environmental Registry until July 24, 2009.